Thank you Hannah Clarke

Thank you Hannah Clarke

Monday, May 25, 2015

Spring Epic 8 hour

Before my disastrous attempt at the first Ontario Cup of the season and the following flu, I had committed to an 8 hour race the next weekend. 8 hour races are more like festivals really than races; teams of 1, 2, 4, or 6 can be entered and they are raced as relay races. Because there are so many people allowed on each team, you end up with a whole lot of people at the course, all set up with tents, coolers, bikes, and music. Sure there are serious guys and serious teams, but it really just like a festival. Team Progressive/Superfly/Maverix was set up in true style with the Progressive Nutrition girls handing out electrolyte drinks and recovery shakes.

I still didn't really have a stomach that could eat much, but I tried and had an egg and a couple bites of oatmeal, and we got on our way. I was set up to tag team the race with Jasiu Kocemba (also known as Junior), a wicked fast junior racer. We did 2 laps at a time each, alternating while doing the 200+m of climbing. Maverix Racing also had Ryan and Lindsay racing the tag team mixed category, and some guys on a 4 person team, plus Matt and Kelsey testing their legs on the course solo (8 gnarly hours in 30+ degrees!).

Start line stories

The race start was a bit chaotic, I did have a front line position, but I was basically starting in a sandbox and got crashed into by two other people before I could properly clip into my bike and get moving in a straight line. I got pretty flusetered after that and by the time that we had climbed up the first major climb, I was sitting pretty in 4th place - I knew this was pretty aggressive for a tag team rider, but my ego needed it after last weekend. Here I was cruising in the top 10 riders and hear some familiar joking coming from beind me, Kelsey and Matt had made it onto the back of my wheel - for bettter or for worse. I reminded them that their goal was to finish all 8 hours of the race on their own, but I guess we got a bit caught up in the moment. By the last quarter of my first lap I was starting to feel like throwing up and it was a long day after that. I slowed down and let Matt and Kelsey ride away from me, which is never an easy thing to do, but I benefitted in the long run from putting my ego aside and pace more moderately. I still came in from my first two laps in good standing, and Junior was a perfect partner for the race.

Smooth handoffs of the timing chip and safe storage (up my shorts) is important!
I had trouble putting back any food, but between the laps I would eat a half of a CLIF bar and some of the phytoberry and vegegreens product from Progressive nutrition. This small amount of sustenance was enough to keep me motoring as one of the fastest riders all day. Being teammates with Jasiu meant that I was treated like royalty and taken care of by his dad Simon Kocemba, who made sure I always had cold towels after my laps, that we knew when to get the timing chip, and that my bike was always in order. By the end of the day, Jasiu and I managed a collective 15 laps, lapping second place!

A gold medal on my birthday!

The Maverix 4 man team did quite well, with another solid 1st place finish, but I can't say the same for our poor boys out riding on a solo mission. Matt unfortunately had a big crash which resulted in a broken bike and staples to put his knee back together (he has made an unbelievably fast recovery since then), and Kelsey paid for those early sprints with some serious cramping. At one point in the race I passed by Kelsey on the side of the trail bent over his bike all seized up, I wanted to help him but he told me to keep riding. About 10 seconds later my leg seized up too. Real bros have sypathy cramps for eachother.

Happy team going home with lots of hardware, I missed the picture though..

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Back to racing 2015 - struggles of the first big race

This year in Canada (especially in Kingston - why did I move here?) we've had a drawn out and cold winter. I managed to get down south for some road bike races with the Queen's road cycling team (not really a focus of mine, but nice to get onto moving bikes outside), followed by an amazing race called the Uxbridge Icebreaker which was the first real mountain bike ride of the season for me!

The weather down south wasn't much better (this is Boston) -Philippe Tremblay photo

The trip to Vermont was amazing, thanks UVM for hosting me!
Second mountain bike ride of the year - Uxbridge Icebreaker - Hannah Clarke photo

There are a few reasons that I didn't cover these races on my blog - school (I've been working so much here that I ended up growing a "paper beard" that I wouldn't let myself shave until I finished a paper)
A quick selfie in my office at Queen's - what do you think of the beard?

And because I wanted to give some coverage of the exciting new team that I get to be a part of; Team Progressive powered by  Superfly/Maverix Racing! Small bits of info and teasers have been coming at me all winter from Jay, our main man/team manager and it all came together for me when last week I was invited to a nutrition seminar at the Progressive Nutrition headquarters. I met half of the team there (some of them for the first time), and was greeted in the parking lot by Jay, who had some important things for me. Firstly, he had a burrito, the Jay E. (he's kind of like Jay-Z) special from Mucho Burrito (you can ask for it anywhere in the country, I like mine with a little extra spice), next he had some fresh kits (what bikers call uniforms), and finally he had some AWESOME swag fro POC.

A hood full of awesome new things (good thing for THULE to make my car an SUV right?)
The nutrition seminar was great, but at the end I had to ask "So how big is my shopping list if I want to get all of these things?", apparently everything I need except DHA and EPA fats (which I can get in fish oil) come with 1 shake per day of VegEssentials - not bad. I'm pretty excited to be working with Progressive Nutrition because for a guy like me who's always busy and doesn't exactly have tons of time for shopping and cooking, it's nice to just have a shake and worry less.

Missing tons half of the team here unfortunately

We got all set up on the Saturday of the weekend with a new tent/expo area to hang out under, and it was great to have such support at the race. Saturday a few of us Maverix guys took groups out riding on the course to build confidence on the trails, and I was really enjoying the beautiful day - I really didn't want to leave (and spent a bit too much time in the sun).

Riding with these guys was a treat, So great to see their improvements after just one lap!

On Sunday, I showed up with a perfect bike, but 5 minutes after I got there I had a flat tire, and then a brake issue. I put my bike into the stand under the tent to get to work on it and I was almost pushed out of the way by our MVP this weekend Simon, who fixed and cleaned my bike.

On the start line I was calm and ready, I had trained harder than ever this winter, and some some pretty great fit things - time to reap the benefits. The race start was fast, but not out of control fast until we reached the first steep climb of the lap, and that was when it started to really hurt. I told myself that I would settle in, and that I could do these efforts, so I pushed it hard to keep my position in the pack. I was gasping for air and definitely not going as fast as I thought I should - but I pushed, thinking that the efforts would feel more reasonable once I had raced a bit longer.

I really couldn't manage a smile - not feeling good at all (Thanks Elissa for the photo)

By the second lap I had been passed by more and more riders, and I knew that I wasn't feeling good. My back seized up, and I really contemplated dropping out of the race. What was the point of all the work that I had done if I was even slower than last year? I started to think about all of my goals for the year and how they were all so unlikely now, and really got down on myself. I knew that I was racing for dead last, and it was painful that that became obvious to me in the second lap of a five lap race, but I stuck it out. I thought that maybe all that I needed was to train at the super high heart rates that a mountain bike race brings on, so at least I would be "racing into fitness" (using races to get performance gains). Besides, I'd rather finish DFL (Dead eFfing Last) than have a DNF (Did Not Finish) beside my name, at least I'd finish with my integrity.

Even my hoverbike didn't help me that day (Thanks Elissa for the photo)

Maybe a smile would have made me ride faster? Probably. 

I tried not to show how unhappy I was and be a good sport, but all of the pictures of me in that race I have this same dumb unimpressed look, sorry guys.

This is what grouchy Chris sprinting on to a lonely sprint finish looks like:

I'm convinced that I will be racing a lot faster in the future, and that this is an isolated incident (I was in bed for the day 3 days later with the flu). Thanks Mom too for coming to watch me race and hand out water bottles, love you! I'm planning to be back on top of my game for the 8 hour race on Saturday at Mansfield. It's my birthday and 8 hour races are almost like bike festivals for the day, so I invite anyone to come out and race a few laps! Mostly it's a great social event to get out, try a race course, and meet lots of people.

PS throw my new team some "likes" on Facebook and Instagram, we've got some great media and love to see the support!